It’s clear that when people write a review on your business, Google likes it. If you’ve noticed the Google Places results when performing a search, it’s likely the businesses that show up have at least a handful of customer reviews on them.
I like customer reviews. When I’m searching for a product or service and can find where someone has reviewed the company, I take notice. But recently, I noticed that my hair salon was the victim of a disgruntled client who recruited three additional people to write unfavorable reviews on the salon. You get a pretty good idea of the organized effort simply by looking at the dates of all the reviews on the salon’s Google Places page. There’s one from 2009 and two from 2010. Then four on the same day in 2011- all negative.
Because my Lakeland public relations firm also provides occasional PR services for this salon, I was a bit concerned for their reputation. Honestly, if a person feels as though they don’t have a good experience at a business, it is their right to write a review that explains it. But I find it unfortunate that the person recruited additional people to write unfavorable reviews. It goes to show that someone with time on their hands and an ax to grind can do a number on your business. Thankfully for this hair salon, the reviews never seemed to have caused any harm. But they could have.
I see reviews as a way of giving a vote of confidence to a business, or pointing out an area that needs improvement. Businesses ought to know when they’ve done something right- or wrong. But to recruit a handful of people to write negative reviews seems mean-spirited, particularly when a small business is the target. A large chain can absorb a few mean comments. Small businesses seem to take the blow a bit harder.
Conversely, I find it disingenuous to ask people to write favorable reviews for your business when they’re just a family member or friend and they’ve not used your services or purchased your products. I get asked to do this every so often.
If you own a business, should you ask people to write reviews for you? Of course. But ask your clients and customers, not your mother and your Junior League friends. Ask people who have experienced your stellar customer service or benefited from your useful product. Those are the people who will sing your praises the best.
Because reviews are playing such a prominent search engine optimization role these days, more businesses are scrambling to get people to write them. But the more you tap family and friends to write them instead of your faithful customers, the less relevant they will become.